Avoiding The Ethanol Blues

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Ethanol-laced “gas” (10 percent ethanol today, 15 percent soon) isn’t all bad.corn 1

Just mostly bad.

It reduces fuel economy noticeably (because there’s less energy in a gallon of 90 percent gas plus 10 percent ethanol than there is in a gallon of 100 percent gas).

It makes food – especially meat – more expensive (because not-far-from-half the corn crop is currently diverted to ethanol production, not livestock feed).

It enriches politically powerful agribusiness cartels – not “the American farmer” (not that the American farmer has any more right than an agribusiness cartel to force others to buy his product).

It can also cause problems in older (and especially occasional use) vehicles and power equipment not originally designed to withstand high alcohol-content fuels.

The main worries are: the alcohol eating away at rubber and plastic parts not made to deal with alcohol-rich fuels – and corrosion (from water accumulation courtesy of the alcohol in the fuel) eating away at the insides of metal parts such as metal gas tanks and fuel lines. Both of these worries are more likely to become actualities if the vehicle – car, bike, lawn mower – is left unused for extended periods of time, in particular because of the increased likelihood of moisture accumulation within the fuel system and also because E10 (that’s what “gas” is nowadays) doesn’t have as long a shelf-life as 100 percent gas. It goes bad sooner – leaving you with problems.

Regular use is the first thing you can do to avoid the ethanol blues. Run whatever it is for at least half an hour at least once a month. This will keep fresh fuel (or at least, fresher fuel)  in the carburetor – which will mean less moisture in the carburetor. If it’s an old bike, turn the fuel tap to off just before you shut down the engine and let it run until the carbs are empty. Do the same with lawnmowers and so on that also have on-off fuel taps (and if yours doesn’t have an on-off fuel tap, consider installing one). This helps avoid problems associated with gummed-up carburetors caused by the fuel sitting in the bowls dissolving rubber seals and so on – and corrosion caused by water in the fuel.

Also try to top off the tank when you’re done. A full tank is less prone to moisture forming inside from condensation/heat cycling – and the new fuel will help freshen up the old fuel that’s still in the tank.marine

And before you top off, add some fuel stabilizer, such as Stab-Bil. Most people in the know know about the reddish-colored “normal” Sta-Bil, which has been around for years and which is sold almost everywhere, including most auto parts places. But Sta-Bil also sells a bluish-green tinted Marine Formula stabilizer (see here) designed for dealing with the “moisture laden environments” associated with ethanol-laced fuel. It is more concentrated and has double the amount of corrosion inhibitor – and four times the amount of fuel system cleaner – than “standard” (red) Sta-Bil. It is specifically formulated to prevent phase separation – water settling out and forming a layer on the bottom of the fuel tank.

For occasional-use stuff – such as classic vehicles and outdoor power equipment – this is the stuff.

If you know you’re not going to be able to run whatever it is for six months or more, it’s probably a good idea to store it dry – with no fuel in the system. Even though Sta-Bil and other fuel stabilizer claim that their products can prevent fuel from degrading (and your machine from being gunked up as a result) for as long as a year when properly dosed, draining the tank/carbs/lines is arguably one of those better-safe-than-sorry things. There’s no harm done by doing it – and you may avoid a great deal of harm by doing it. Or at least, a lot of hassle if you end up having to tear apart/rebuild a gunked-up fuel system after long-term storage. Use an aerosol fogger to protect the interior of  emptied fuel tanks (such as motorcycle/power equipment fuel tanks).

A more permanent solution is to coat/seal the tank. There are several products available, including Kreem and POR-15 both of which I’ve used myself and can personally vouch for.  These products prevent ethanol-related degradation/rusting of metal tanks by  laying down an impermeable barrier between the metal and the fuel.  Newer vehicles (and equipment) typically have fuel tanks made out of composite plastics made to withstand ethanol – and which can’t rust. But older metal tanks are very vulnerable to rusting, even if fresh (and treated) fuel is used. Sealing them will solves that potential problem effectively forever – for the life of the tank, anyhow.kreem

You may also want to think about replacing original (and so, pre-ethanol) rubber fuel lines with modern rubber lines designed to withstand ethanol-laced “gas.” Ditto the hard steel lines in, for example, older cars. Like metal fuel tanks, they are very susceptible to rusting from the inside out. Replacing them with stainless steel will eliminate that possibility.

Oh, I almost forgot about ethanol’s good points…

In the interest of fairness, these must be mentioned:

Ethanol has goosed the octane rating of fuel – which in turn has allowed the car companies to build mass-market engines with high-compression engines, which are both more powerful as well as more efficient.

I’d still rather have real gas – and fewer problems.

Throw it in the Woods?

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Author of "Automotive Atrocities" and "Road Hogs" (MBI). Currently living amongst the Edentulites in rural SW Virginia. 

  84 comments for “Avoiding The Ethanol Blues

  1. mithrandir
    December 29, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    Too bad they do not sell both side by side. 100% gas next to 90% (soon to be 85%) gas, priced accordingly.

    I assume it is due to mandate that the “newer” fuel is pushed to as many people as possible. I would think that there would be many people choosing to use 100% gas when feasible.

    • mikehell
      December 30, 2012 at 12:40 am

      I suspect that there are financial penalties to vendors who buy 100%, probably in the form of higher taxes or some such nonsense so that his mark-up has to be higher. Here in Florida I only see 100% where there’s lots of people buying for outboard engines.

      And thanks for the tip about running the marine-grade Stabil, Eric. I hadn’t even considered running it instead of the normal grade. Btw, a mechanic recently told me that a dry chainsaw is nearly as bad as one that’s had 90% sit in it. Why would that be? Dried-up rubber bits?

      • BrentP
        December 30, 2012 at 1:31 am

        Check your chainsaw’s manual. Mine says to empty the tank and then run the saw until it is out of fuel.

      • Olaf Koenders
        December 30, 2012 at 11:09 am

        I’ve had to replace all the o-rings and seals in my CBR1000 carbies after having stored it dry for about a year. Probably because they were older 1995 vintage (or earlier) seals originally. Hopefully they’ll last longer this time.. :/

        • December 30, 2012 at 11:18 am

          Yup –

          I did the same with all my bikes except the “new” (2003) one….

      • December 30, 2012 at 11:35 am

        You bet, Mike!

        On the chainsaw: Well, they are two-strokes – so no gas means no lubricating oil. But this shouldn’t be an issue if the engine’s not running. Internal parts should be protected by the light oil film from the last use. I use my saw (Stihl) so much that I usually leave it with a full tank of treated fuel prior after use rather than drain it. But I’ll check the manual, see what it says and report back….

      • December 30, 2012 at 1:52 pm

        Hey Mike,

        Ok, I found it:

        “The fuel tank should be emptied. Run the engine until the fuel system is dry.”

        -Stihl owner’s manual/recommendations for storage. See: http://www.stihlusa.com/faq/products/fuel/

        • mikehell
          December 30, 2012 at 4:24 pm

          My saw’s manual says to empty the tank but clearly the best option is to use the saw more often to keep things lubed.

          • dom
            December 30, 2012 at 4:26 pm

            That’s what I do! Everything should be in running condition at all times. That is in the definition of tool in my book.

          • Eightsouthman
            January 1, 2013 at 10:22 pm

            A friend always does that but I don’t. I’m not sure why I don’t. I used to do it but always think I’ll be using my saw(Stihl, his too)soon so not draining it will be better. I should know better. Back when my saw was a couple years old they ran a load of alcohol fuel in on me. They did this going way back in the most unusual place in Texas. I always used Chevron with Techron(blue gas) and things were fine. One day I was coming back in from a big job and filled my welder with gas and then my other portable tanks. I realized as I was finishing that the gas had alcohol in it(smelled it and then looked at it, not blue)so I made a mental not to use it all up quickly, generally not a problem. I tried to separate my good gas from new stuff but I always had so much gas in store I got it mixed up. I was cutting wood right after that and my saw started to do funny things. It finally started revving really high and I was wondering what the problem was when it just revved way up and quit, out of gas, right?, no, plenty gas in the tank…..so I pulled the pickup, which was a rubber component, not like the hard plastic replacement when I had my engine rebuilt. The orginal component was gummy and had sucked shut(the rubber had degraded and just gave up its ability to stay round), leaning the engine that was virtually new and ruining it. I was so pissed, not at just the fuel seller(still, Techron, Chevron gas advertised)but at myself for not checking the gas I was using. Now it doesn’t matter. There is no real gasoline in the entire country, maybe not in the state. Screw me again. I had called Stabil about my boat and they said there was nothing they made to address two-stroke gas as far as alchohol was concerned and left me hanging in the wind. I told them they were doing a disservice to everyone not making anything compatible with two-cycle gas. They acted as if I were speaking Swahili. Then I had big problems with my big Merc, the entire fuel system except for the tank, fuel lines, fuel pump and carbs. Just screw ‘em.

        • BrentP
          January 2, 2013 at 6:31 am

          I checked the manual, it also says to remove the spark plug and put a little 2stroke oil in. mine saw is an Echo. Some winters I drain, some winters I just make sure to run it every 30 days even if I don’t use it. Both ways of doing things have worked out so far.

      • December 31, 2012 at 8:01 am

        If you know you’re not going to be able to run whatever it is for six months or more, it’s probably a good idea to store it dry – with no fuel in the system. Even though Sta-Bil and other fuel stabilizer claim that their products can prevent fuel from degrading (and your machine from being gunked up as a result) for as long as a year when properly dosed, draining the tank/carbs/lines is arguably one of those better-safe-than-sorry things. There’s no harm done by doing it …

        Ah… the way I heard it, when people were laying up their cars in the U.K. for the duration of the Second World War, that was a bad idea. Rather, as well as putting them up on blocks (to stop the tyres deforming under a steady weight) under cover, they left a little fuel in the tanks to keep them sweet and stop things like fuel lines splitting or separating (by analogy to leaving a little fresh water in the bottom of a boat laid up over winter, where it stops the wood from shrinking; that’s also called “keeping it sweet”), then they ran them on idle every few months to keep the batteries from deteriorating. (I once read a very funny article from Punch that said that even that would have failed over the years on every other car but the author’s antique, because they all had rubber parts that would have rotted while his didn’t.) Military engines were often laid up packed in sorbolene, much as guns were. Maybe modern materials don’t have the same volatiles in them that they would lose if they weren’t kept sweet like that, but suppose someone just happens to have a machine that’s still vulnerable to that. That mechanic’s advice may relate to this, particularly if he learned around older equipment that was vulnerable to it.

    • December 30, 2012 at 11:37 am

      It depends where you are. In my area (SW Va.) there is a station in town that does sell “regular” (100 percent gas) and “unleaded” (E10) side by side. The real gas costs about 15 cents more per gallon.

      • mithrandir
        December 30, 2012 at 1:16 pm

        I think PA is the closest I am to 100% gasoline.

        15¢ more per gallon is worth it in my opinion. Theoretically that should be about 10% more mpg for less than 10% increase in cost.

        • December 30, 2012 at 1:27 pm

          It’s worth it to me chiefly for the decreased likelihood of alcohol-related problems in occasional use equipment such as riding mowers and so on. Also, older (pre 1990s) vehicles that were built with components not meant to deal with alcohol-laced fuels.

          Also, with regard to older vehicles – especially older air-cooled bikes: E10 amounts to a lean mixture (unless the bike’s carbs have been re-jetted) and running a leaner A/F ratio means the engine will run hotter.

  2. Tinsley Grey Sammons
    December 30, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Even at an alleged 300 gallons per acre I question the sense of ethanol. I’d rather have an acre of food*or forest . . . or a pond.

    Planet earth desperately needs a steady and dramatic reduction in the naked ape population. The planet is infested with the ugly things.


    *There are many crops that are much more nutritious than corn.

    • December 30, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      I’d amend that to Clothed Clovers!

      Reminds me of a refrain from a ’90s song I can’t recall the title of:

      “… Been around the world and found that only stupid people are breeding… The cretins cloning and feeding…”

      It’s absolutely true. And we have government to thank for it.

      Huxley and others wrote of dystopic futures engineered for the Herd Animal sort of man. To be ruled over by a few Shepherds.

      • Tor Munkov
        December 30, 2012 at 2:19 pm

        Harvey Danger – Flagpole Sitta

        I’m not sick, but I’m not well
        and I’m so hot ’cause I’m in hell

        Been around the world and found
        That only stupid people are breeding
        The cretins cloning and feeding
        And I don’t even own a TV

        • Eightsouthman
          January 1, 2013 at 10:57 pm

          The ignorant have always been the populators of the planet. Several years ago there was an outcry in Mexico because the US corn crop was being used for alcohol and there weren’t enough imports to feed that country. This could easily play out in this country too. It takes a gallon of diesel to make one gallon of ethanol. So why do it? Big subsidy, big ag. The REAL corn farmers hate the ag corps. that farm for the govt.

      • December 31, 2012 at 8:06 am

        One of those others was Cyril Kornbluth, who died young as far back as the 1950s (and so, must have spotted the trend by then). You should read some of his stuff.

        • liberranter
          January 2, 2013 at 5:22 am

          I remember reading The Marching Morons many years ago. A good story!

    • Ed
      December 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm

      “Planet earth desperately needs a steady and dramatic reduction in the naked ape population. The planet is infested with the ugly things.”

      I didn’t think you could saddle that hobbyhorse in this thread, but maybe I underestimated the strength of your delusion. Sure, pal. There are too many of us and we’re all going to die.

      BTW, are you part of the “infestation of the ugly things”? Why on earth do you keep spouting this leftist garbage here?

    • Nobody
      January 2, 2013 at 3:29 am

      You’ve got all that right!

  3. Rich
    December 30, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Thanks for the tips Eric, especially about the Sta-Bil. I’m in Florida and have an emergency generator that I keep full of gas (if you need to use it, gas may not be available. I also keep two 5-gallon cans). Perhaps the best thing to do is after a test run I should just shut off the gas valve and let it starve. Any suggestions about generators?

    • December 30, 2012 at 3:03 pm

      Hi Rich,


      On the generator… I have one, too (been using it a lot recently; we had a major ice storm last week and lost grid power for two days) and here’s my procedure:

      * Fresh fuel every six months – even if treated. Drain tank, run the old fuel in something else (like lawnmower).
      * Treat fresh fuel with Sta-Bil, run gennie once a month for 10 minutes – and let it die “naturally” by turning fuel valve to “off.” Top off tank with fresh/treated fuel. Never leave gennie for extended period with partially full tank.
      * Change oil once a year,irrespective of hours in service.

      This may be a bit overly compulsive, but when you live in a rural area prone to frequent (and often long-term) grid power outtages, the last thing you want to deal with is a gennie that won’t start when you need it to!

      • Rich
        December 30, 2012 at 3:13 pm

        Thanks Eric! I’m going to print that out and keep it available. And it’s not overly compulsive at all. The generator was not cheap, and when we get a storm down here, you’re not likely to be able to get another one in a hurry.

      • mikehell
        December 30, 2012 at 4:27 pm

        Eric, can you remind me what model of generator you have? thanks, m

        • December 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm

          Mine’s a Briggs&Stratton 5,500 watts continuous -

          • mikehell
            December 30, 2012 at 6:15 pm


  4. Douglas
    December 31, 2012 at 5:44 am

    IF the Otto-cycle engines were optimized for ethanol and/or ethanol/gasoline blends, that’d be one thing. Like Eric and other posters mentioned, different compression ratio, valve timing and profile, stainless steel fuel lines and tanks, ethanol-resistant hoses and gaskets. But that’s in the realm of engineering. Running on “corn likker” is NOT a new technology. The old Model T Fords with their low compression and “loose” (by modern standards) manufacturing tolerances could run on gasoline, ethanol, methanol, or kerosene, or mixtures thereof. An experienced driver learned to adjust his spark plug advancement (manual) IAW the fuel in operation of his “Flivver”. There is a REASON, like with the early Electrics or the Stanley Steamers, why alternatives in motor vehicle propulsion and fuels were largely abandoned. Cost (usually the deciding factor), reliability (gasoline-powered cars became simpler and lighter than comparable electrics and steamers), and versatility.
    Also, ethanol fuel production doesn’t survive w/o Government subsidies. It’s about winning votes in the Corn Belt, which the Republicunts are ahead of the Jackasses in that game. Also, Agribusiness conglomerates like Archer Daniels Midland have the Federal Government in their pocket for the ethanol boondoggle.
    I have no objection to free market solutions to using ethanol fuels. I have a paperback from the early 80’s that takes the “Mother Earth News” approach (simple down-home methods of alcohol production from locally-available feedstocks). I suspect that any successful local initiatives that didn’t fatten the profits of ADM and line the politician’s pockets would soon warrant attention from the ATF, the FBI, and other Government alphabet soup that exists to perpetuate the corrupt system.

    • December 31, 2012 at 8:17 am

      Ah… ethanol fuel production can survive without government subsidies (or their near equivalent, mandates), in times and places with different conditions to today’s U.S.A. It’s close to that in Brazil now, though I think they do have a small subsidy. Even in the U.S.A., or in Australia where I am, it would make sense on a small scale without subsidies for people who went off grid, provided they only used it for personal transportation and didn’t use it to power farm equipment (which would make for a wasteful cycling of resources in their home-based economy, that they could improve by running that off gasifiers burning crop waste).

      • BrentP
        December 31, 2012 at 6:08 pm

        Corn ethanol is not profitable without the artificial market conditions. It’s like spending $2000 on diesel fuel to produce 1oz of gold. It is simply not a profitable venture. It takes more mineral aka fossil fuel in both dollars and energy than what is created in ethanol. When there are mandates and/or subsidies the profit is there, in the real world there isn’t. This is why statists say ‘the free market fails’. It’s when whatever they think is best can’t make a profit.

        In Brazil ethanol is made from sugar cane. This is profitable process to make ethanol. Part of the sugar cane plant provides the fuel to make ethanol from the rest of the plant. The solar energy is effectively put into a usable form without consuming other forms of energy in the process.

        Ethanol is all in how it is done. Which is why corn ethanol wouldn’t be an effective fuel in a free market.

        • Eightsouthman
          January 1, 2013 at 11:07 pm

          Everything Brent said is correct. From an ex-NASDA(USDA off-shoot) employee. Also, many other plants including hemp are fine for making ethanol and doing it profitably. Think what the bread basket of this country could produce if hemp were legal….and that’s just why it isn’t. Oil companies as well as chemical companies don’t want any competition. Farming cotton is much better…..says Monsanto who has the only chemical that’s used to kill weeds, RoundUp. Now all cottonseed is RoundUp ready. Billons of dollars of profit and polluting the earth like nobody’s business.

  5. December 31, 2012 at 8:19 am

    Oh, I almost forgot about ethanol’s good points…

    In the interest of fairness, these must be mentioned:

    Ethanol has goosed the octane rating of fuel – which in turn has allowed the car companies to build mass-market engines with high-compression engines, which are both more powerful as well as more efficient.

    In the interest of fairness, we should mention that this feature means that cars optimised for alcohol based fuel (all the way up to pure ethanol or methanol) can get roughly the same mileage per gallon as petrol optimised ones, and even better mileage for weight of fuel. The only poorer mileage comes from using alcohol based fuel in petrol optimised cars, or petrol in alcohol optimised cars. But the newer cars may not be fully optimised, so they can still run acceptably with real petrol. I think one of the other comments touched on this.

  6. Bee
    December 31, 2012 at 10:16 am


    I store gas with 2 stroke oil & Stabil for summer use in my lawn equipment. In late fall I have left over gas/oil mixture left over. Less than 1 gallon left over. Could I put that in my car to use it up? Would the 2 stroke oil mess up my fuel injectors?


    • December 31, 2012 at 10:27 am

      Hi Bee,

      I would never – ever – use gas mixed with two-stroke oil in any modern emissions-controlled car. You’d very likely foul the 02 sensors and quite possibly destroy the catalytic converter(s). This could cost you hundreds – possibly thousands (some OE cats cost $400 a piece and many new cars have several cats) of dollars. You’d be paying for the repairs yourself, too – because using two-stroke oil in any amount would absolutely void any new car’s warranty coverage.

      Never, ever do this!

      • Ed
        January 2, 2013 at 2:34 pm

        In 1/2/13 Providence Journal, Car Talk hosts Tom & Ray Magliozzi say it is OK to mix oil & gas mixtures with your cars fuel tank. I also would never put this in a $ 40,000 vehicle gas tank.

        • January 2, 2013 at 5:07 pm

          If they say that, they should expect to get sued – when someone follows their advice, has a problem – and discovers their warranty coverage is void.

    • BrentP
      December 31, 2012 at 7:01 pm

      As Eric points out the two-stroke oil is bad for the modern car. I mix it with fresh fuel and burn it my old lawn mower. I burns a little smokey but as far as I can tell does no harm and shouldn’t.

      • Eightsouthman
        January 2, 2013 at 12:25 am

        Here’s the deal. Most two-stroke oil is 50.1, not much oil and Amsoil is twice that ratio. I have used countless gallons(20 or more at a time)two stroke and throw it in the tank with that much or more reg gas and no problems. Yes I understand there could be but there never has been for me. I wouldn’t hesitate to put two gallons of two stroke fuel in a Porsche with a close to full tank. Think about your ratios here. 2 gallons reg gas and 2 gallons 50 to one=100 to one, 2 more gallons reg gas=200 to one, etc. You’ll never even smell it or know it’s been put in there. I’ve even run 20 gallons two cycle in an almost empty pickup, so long cataclysmic converter, no more grass fires when you stop. Try it, you’ll like it.

        • BrentP
          January 2, 2013 at 6:40 am

          I know it is 50:1. I’m not going to ruin sensors and such with it or even risk it. I might burn it in my ’73, which of course has nothing to ruin.

          • dom
            January 2, 2013 at 5:26 pm

            I do the same. Not worth cooking the cat.

  7. Kevin McCune
    December 31, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Do not burn oil adulterated fuel in a modern auto ever! its alright to consume it in an old wheezy clunker without a converter.

    Always run your power equipment dry of gasoline; you listed some good ways to do that. I’ve done this for years and never had any problem on the restart on the older engines,modern gaskets do not dry out.

    If I ever get a backup generator,it will be propane powered or a solar powered minimal backup system,thus avoiding most fuel storage woes.

    As for corn for cows,No! grassfed much better; cows weren’t designed by the Good Lord to eat corn,I don’t even waste the garden space growing corn generally(much prefer to support the local farmers market for they’re reasonably priced and delicious “Peaches and cream,” “Hollaway” or” Silver queen” corn (I try not to put anything in my mouth made in China)


    • December 31, 2012 at 12:19 pm

      Amen, Kevin –

      I gave Bee the same advice.

      And on the generator: A few months back I wrote about converting to dual (or multi) use. Mine can run on natural gas, propane or gasoline. Good to have options!

      • December 31, 2012 at 1:55 pm

        Drat. This comment was meant to be a reply here.

      • January 1, 2013 at 12:21 am

        Great suggestion on the dual fuel conversion on the generator. Another suggestion that I might make is that if you are a serious do it yourself tinkerer would be to get yourself a welder-generator combo. (mine’s a Lincoln Weldanpower). If you know how to weld and like to build or fix things it will probably never sit long enough to gum up very much. If you don’t know how to weld take a class. It’s worth it.

        • January 1, 2013 at 11:06 am

          Thanks, Moto!

          And, neat idea on the welder-generator combo… gonna have to look into that.

          • Eightsouthman
            January 2, 2013 at 12:57 am

            Propane is a forever fuel and so are engines that run on them. The new welder/generators are great, no matter if they’re red or blue(Miller). I am a dyed in the wool propane guy because the fuel lasts forever as does the engine and having a 250 gallon tank with a wet line for filling anything you want is a great thing. I can run my grill, generator, tractor(’68 J.D. 4020)for a long time on one tank($2.25/gal. this year). No worry about leaking carb into oil pan, no gumming up and no fuel going bad. What’s not to like? I understand propane goes faster than gas but 200 gallons(80%)is nothing to sneeze at and that’s just my small tank.

          • January 2, 2013 at 11:51 am

            Agreed, Eight –

            That’s exactly why I converted my gennie to be capable of operating on both propane and CNG – as well as gas!

            The plan is to get that 250 gallon tank, too…

  8. December 31, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    As I think I mentioned then, for real off the grid use, adapt it to use a gasifier that can burn locally foraged fuel. A purist would say, use a steam engine or a Stirling engine, but that would take a lot more fabrication from scratch.

  9. Scott
    December 31, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    Good tip on the Stabil Blue; I used it every other time I pump gas and have noticed quality difference when I do so. It’s not real cheap but is worth it for the peace of mind; especially here in the very wet winter clime of the Pacific N.W.

  10. Tre Deuce
    January 1, 2013 at 11:19 am

    I propose a contest…Name the year, make, and model, of that half of a gas tank.

    Great article and some very good comments.

    And, yes, keep any oil out of a modern engine and its exhaust system.

    And, old ‘in tank’ fuel filter socks, are susceptible to melting with alcohol amended fuels.

  11. Tre Deuce
    January 1, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Speaking of ‘Old Gas’ How about this old Muscle(455″) for a few dollars, plus restoration. http://medford.craigslist.org/cto/3455920268.html

    • January 1, 2013 at 11:42 am

      That appears to be a deal!

      Personally, I always preferred the Buick/Pontiac intermediates to the Chevys. A bit more ornate, a bit more detailed. Back in the days when there was meaningful difference between a Buick and a Pontiac and a Chevy!

      • Tre Deuce
        January 1, 2013 at 12:05 pm

        The 68′-70′ Buick’s had a stylized fifties look, and in a sense, they were a modern retro of the time.

        My Mother’s twin sister bought a new 68′ and it was quite the attractive car with its yellow paint, black vinyl roof, and Buick styled steel wheels. Wonder where it is now?

        Recently when I was in East Texas, I picked up a 67′ Buick ‘Special’ coupe, still powered by an odd-fire V-6 with a ‘three on the tree’. A 70′ Buick 455″ and 4-speed, and disc brake conversion, came with the package. New repair panels and windshield arrived at the shop this week. Should be a pretty unique ride when finished.

        What is on your 2013 project list, Eric?

        • January 1, 2013 at 1:00 pm

          “What is on your 2013 project list, Eric?”

          Where to start?

          I might put a hotter cam in the Trans-Am. What was quick in ’99 (when I built the 455 that’s in there now) isn’t all that hot now. It currently has the computer-optimized version of the original 335 hp RA III cam. Fairly mild, very streetable. I could probably get close to 400 honest hp with something a bit more aggressive, without killing its streetability. As you probably know, to get much more than 400 honest hp out of something like a stock-block/heads old Pontiac usually means giving up streetability. That’s fine for a bracket racer, but I like to drive my car on the street!

          Truthfully, I ought to leave it alone and just save up money for a proper repaint. Mechanically, the car is near 100 percent. The body/paint still looks ok for an almost 40-year-old car, but it could use a cosmetic refresh.

          I’m working on our “guesthouse – a two story (main plus loft) unfinished building – which will be used to house the bikes when it’s done. The first level will be a display area for my restored antique bikes and the one really nice new one. This will be a cool hang-out place and also free up some much-needed garage space.

          Then I can consider another car!

          • Eightsouthman
            January 2, 2013 at 2:15 am

            You could wrap that 455 up and save it. Install any number of small block Chevy’s to get well over 400, even 500 HP and be streetable. They ain’t cheap though. It would handle better no doubt. An old style 400 small block punched out and stroked to well over 400 CI can be mighty streetable and raunchy to boot. I don’t have to tell you about the newer small blocks and their great heads and potentials though. Face it. An SBC with a hot profile just idling will not only get lots of looks but you’ll be grinnin’ every time you stick your foot in it. And yes, nobody will mistake it for a 455. I know, I know, just sayin’.

          • January 2, 2013 at 11:40 am


            I could never bring myself to do that.

            A big part of the car’s appeal – to me – is that it’s not like modern cars. Put a powerful SBC in it – and it becomes like every other car with a powerful SBC in it. To me, quickness is not everything.

            The SBC is a brilliant design. I admire and respect it – and I have no problem with others who choose to put one in whatever.

            But I enjoy summoning to life the sound and feel (and torque) of an engine that isn’t yet another SBC. Something different – an engine you don’t see (or hear) every day. (This is also why I love old two-stroke triple Kaws. Nothing else sounds like that.)

            True story: I was at a car show with the TA and got to talking with a high school kid, I guess about 16 or so. He was google-eyed when I explained that “455” meant 7.4 liters – almost as many cubes as a current Viper V-10. You and I and others who are old enough have personal memories of a time when there was a plenitude of other-than-SBC engines out there. Those days are long gone. Being able to see/hear an engine that hasn’t been produced in going on 40 years is an intangible cool thing that may not obviate all the rational reasons to “go SBC” – but that’s not necessarily the point.

            The best analogy I can come up with is a WWII-era battleship vs. a modern missile frigate. The frigate is superior in every way as a fighting ship – but it just doesn’t summon the awe of seeing a 60,000 ton Iowa cleaving the seas, those 16 inch turrets preparing to fire a broadside of steel 20 miles over the horizon….

          • Tre Deuce
            January 2, 2013 at 2:49 am

            A favorite car, when sorted to near 100%, is very rewarding.

            My self, I would just make that engine compartment look new.

            A fun space to share your interests/hobby can be a source of many good times.

            I actually can’t figure how you have the time to do any projects, Eric.

          • Eightsouthman
            January 2, 2013 at 2:38 pm

            eric, I was yanking your chain. I know you’re a purist. I can appreciate that too. The old 455 HD’s were monsters, tons of torque from idle on and the ability to rev too. While we can no longer use 11.5-1 compression, 10-1 is not uncommon and will operate fine on premium. Cam design is so much better than it was years ago I think your engine would probably gain a huge amount with just that mod. It’s no longer expensive, and when I say expensive, I’m only talking 50% more for a special grind compared to buying one off the shelf.

          • January 2, 2013 at 5:06 pm


            One of the main issues with the classic Pontiac V-8 (as you know – but for the benefit of those who may not) is that compression ratio was to a great extent determined by the heads used (and chamber volume). My “6X” heads, for example, yield an appx. 7.6:1 CR (yes, you read that right!) I had a set of “48” heads from a RA III 400; these come close to 11.0:1 – but it’s very hard to run that high a CR in one of these engines on pump gas, even today’s higher-octane stuff. Most Pontiac builders I know recommend no more than 9.5:1 or so for a street engine using the factory cast iron heads. You can probably get away with more using the aftermarket (Edelbrock, etc.) alloy heads, which are functionally superior in every respect.

          • BrentP
            January 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm

            On engine choice we can thank the bankers, the regulators, and the business school graduates for that.

            The bankers who took our wealth so we as a people can’t afford the vast array of choices, the regulators who take free market choice away, and the business school graduates who don’t understand product but think they can hang different badges on things to make them different.

        • Kevin McCune
          January 1, 2013 at 4:23 pm

          There was something “Beau James” about those old Buicks and such,for some reason the Chevelles(excuse my spelling) just didnt match it,they were sweet cars(the chevys) but it was nice to have something the same but different-Kevin

  12. Tor Munkov
    January 1, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    List of 6293 stations with E0 no-ethanol gas by state/province.

    238 Pure Gas Stations in Virginia

  13. Kevin McCune
    January 1, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    No.No!how stupid do they think we are? I used to look for 10
    % alcohol blend,thought I was helping the enviroment,thought I was helping the farmers and using up a resource that the rats were eating up didnt realize it was a giveaway to the mega farms.My Dakota runs very well on 90/10 better then on straight gas,but the mileage sure suffers.
    Alcohol works in Brazil,because of the feedstocks(sugarcane, etc) but its just not appropiate in the US.There are things we could do here,like converting our coal into dimethyl ether(I beieve it is) its a lot cheaper then anything you can get from the middle east and makes use of an abundant resource(coal) coal we never be clean,but its ours and lets use it.
    Didnt think I would ever say this,but bring back the import tariffs and bring home manufacturing to the US,we need more exports rather then just more people coming over to lower our standard of living.I CANNOT BELIEVE WE ARE STILL GIVING OUR COUNTRY AWAY!kevin

    • Eightsouthman
      January 2, 2013 at 5:36 am

      Quite obviously they think you’re pretty damned stupid, along with the rest of your constituents. Does that make you mad? It should. Why would Feinstein submit an amendment(thought I was gonna say a new gun ban bill?)to the NDAA that fairly much does away with any Constitutional rights you might have thought left after the original NDAA bill? It’s because she thinks not only that we’re all stupid but we have no power to do anything about it and she and her kind will never have to live under its rule. I suspect she’s right. Too bad the American public is nothing more than sheeple, stupid(it hurts me to say this), simple, law obeying, barely whining, dolts. My generation used to take to the streets and oppose this sort of thing. Then we got fat and old and thought we’d done a good job. What we didn’t understand is it takes never ending vigilance to keep your rights. And now I stand with the young who don’t want to lie down and take it. Good for them. May they retain the fire within.

    • Eightsouthman
      January 2, 2013 at 5:46 am

      Oh, Kevin, you’re not wrong in wantin got bring back manufacturing nor back import tariffs. I’m not sure we’d need import tariffs if we had no NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT or other trade”agreements” that were nothing more or less than way to keep the top (way below 1%)rolling in dough. Once they realized they could legislate themselve unlimited money they certainly weren’t going to Not take it, They had GHWB on board who passed it along to Clinton and then to Georgie and then to Obamer. Think it’s all not the same game? I have more faith in you than that. Now just get a fire and go for it.

  14. scott d
    January 3, 2013 at 1:30 am

    Very interesting article, we have a rough time in New York State finding any “real” gas. I’ve had concerns over running “corn juice” in my newer Hemi, and mileage is dismal to begin with. My comment is after reading most all the posts, I’m wondering if this is sponsored by Sta-bil ?? I’ve researched a lot on this, and found a product called PRI-G ( or PRI-D for DIESELS!) that will stabilize fuel for up to five years! Plus all the benefits of retarding separation issues, rubber rot, and moisture displacement. I have no issues with Sta-bil products, used them for years, but the old saying holds true “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”… pricing is comparable between both products, and I feel it’s money well spent to preserve my motor. Big business and Government is always going to look out for itself, not the consumer, we’re just pockets to be picked clean… and the sheeple we’ve become make it like taking candy from babies…

    • January 3, 2013 at 10:01 am

      Hi Scott,

      I only mentioned Sta-Bil because I have had good experiences using it – but PRI-G may be just as good. The only reason I didn’t mention it by name is that I don’t have any personal experience with it, and my rule is to never recommend anything I haven’t personally used and had good results using.

      Bottom line, use whichever product works best (or which works just as well but costs less).

  15. Stephen
    January 3, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Also don’t forget you can still buy ETHANOL FREE GAS.

    There is a app for Apple I phone users. Search for Ethanol Free. Note not all the sites have the ethanol free. But some do. I currently hit a Citgo Station for 90 octane ethanol Free for my 2002 Trans Am that started to develop a miss (like it had water in the systmem). This was a occasional use car. Since I hav put 3 tanks of Ethanol Free in the car, the misses have gone away.

    The web site is https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ethanol-free-gas-finder/id487998473?mt=8


  16. January 9, 2013 at 4:48 am

    The problem is that you’re attempting to address a subject (ethanol-gasoline blends) and your base information is incorrect, which then makes all your ensuing recommendations wrong or suspect.

    A gasoline-powered vehicle that uses a ethanol-gasoline blend does not get fewer MPG (if indeed you have a vehicle that does get less MPG if you use an ethanol-gasoline blend) because ethanol has “less energy per gallon.” It will get less MPG because the engine is not optimized to run on a high-level ethanol-gasoline blend. Energy content per gallon is irrelevant.

    In an ICE optimized for gasoline the spark timing is wrong for ethanol, the fuel injectors are wrong for ethanol, and the piston stroke is too short to make full use of the greater compression performance allowed by ethanol. The fact that ethanol will work at all in a gasoline engine is amazing.

    Diesel has more “energy” per gallon than gasoline, but if you put diesel in your gasoline-powered vehicle it will not start and will not run. This doesn’t mean diesel has less “energy,” it’s because the engine is not optimized to use diesel.

    • January 9, 2013 at 10:25 am

      Hi Marc,

      An IC engine not optimized for an ethanol blend will not get the mileage it would were it fed the gasoline for which it was designed. “Optimizing” an engine to run on ethanol (or ethanol blends) doesn’t somehow make ethanol more efficient (or even as efficient) as a gas-burning engine. Because ethanol contain less energy per unit volume than pure gasoline does.

      The energy of ethanol relative to gasoline:

      A. 76,000 = BTU of energy in a gallon of ethanol
      B. 116,090 = BTU of energy in a gallon of gasoline
      C. .655 = 2/3 = GGE of energy in a gallon of ethanol. A / B. (GGE =energy in a gal. of gas)

      D. 1.53 = Gallons of ethanol with the energy of 1 gallon of gasoline. D = B / A.

      So, I’m not sure what your objection is.

  17. January 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Eric – what you wrote in your reply about an ICE optimized to run on ethanol is correct: using gasoline in it would be inefficient as compared to using ethanol. And it’s inefficient even though the gasoline could be said to have higher energy content. It’s a similar scenario to the one I set forth about trying to use diesel in an engine optimized for gasoline. It’s all about engine optimization, not a formula that is only relevant to heating water.

    The energy content formula is only relevant if we are discussing the most efficient way to heat water to a boil in order to power a steam engine.

    Moreover, if engine damage is a real concern, then you would never want to run gasoline in an ethanol optimized ICE. At least, you can run ethanol in a gasoline-optimized engine and the worst you get are debatable arguments as to whether the ethanol is causing any greater amount of cylinder wall pitting then the pitting caused by gasoline. And I don’t know of any situation in which it’s ever suggested that gasoline should be used to clean out an ethanol optimized engine.

    If you have a gasoline-powered vehicle and you want to increase performance characteristics, you add in ethanol. If you want to really increase performance you only use ethanol or a very high ethanol-gasoline blend, and make adjustments to the engine to optimize its use of the ethanol. This involve changing the spark timing, the fuel injectors, the length of piston stroke, and of course you would use parts that are resistant to alcohol corrosion.

    So my point is not to villain-ize ethanol by employing incorrect information about the energy characteristics of ethanol. If someone has a vehicle in which the complete system is not optimized to run on ethanol (the fuel lines, connectors, gaskets, etc.) then the engine will not run as efficiently as it does with gasoline and there will be corrosion and breaking down of rubber parts. Therefore, if ethanol is used you should change the parts. But this is a moot point because even if you use “pure” gasoline the parts will need to be changed at some point. Gasoline doesn’t preserve and protect all of these parts, it destroys them, too.

    And if the engine is anything more than a relatively unsophisticated engine, then you must use something in the gasoline to prevent the engine from breaking apart from the knock. This is why GM/Standard Oil/DuPont invented leaded gasoline in the first place. But they only made leaded gasoline their fuel of choice because they could patent the formula, which allowed them to make billions of dollars (trillions in modern terms). It was not a decision based upon gasoline being a better fuel. Over time, it was natural to use parts that were optimized for gasoline, but that was just another way for the petroleum companies to protect their exalted position.

    • January 9, 2013 at 12:58 pm

      Hi Marc,

      You write:

      “…even though the gasoline could be said to have higher energy content”

      Italics added.

      It’s not “could be said.” It’s does. Gas – pure gas – contains more potential energy than the same volume of ethanol or ethanol-laced fuel. Put another way, it takes more ethanol to release an equivalent amount of energy.

      Ethanol can only be more efficient/economical than gas as an energy source when it costs less than gas – which makes up for the fact that you need to use more of it to get the same result.

      In the US, ethanol (corn-based) is horrendously energy-inefficient. It is a net energy loser (takes more to “input” than you get in “outputs”). It is in the fuel supply for one reason only: The power of the agribusiness lobby. If we had a truly free market – free of cartel capitalism and rent-seeking – ethanol as a fuel would exist only in the niche markets (race fuel and so on).

  18. January 9, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Eric – Your information is wrong.

    1. Energy content in a gallon of gasoline vs. a gallon of ethanol is completely and totally irrelevant.

    2. The comment about ethanol being negative fuel efficient is predicated upon a study conducted by David Pimentel at Cornell with preposterous information. In addition, later studies, such as the one done by UC Berkeley show that not only the Pimentel study (and all other reports issued as a by-product of the Pimentel study) are incorrect.

    3. If there was such a free market, gasoline would never, ever be able to compete with ethanol in price or performance. Every study done to show the true cost of gasoline is somewhere between $10 and $15 per gallon. Ethanol is only priced as high as it is because its distribution as a blend at stations is controlled by the gasoline industry.

    4. Even with the gasoline-industry affected price of E85, E85 is typically more cost effective. A gasoline-powered car using E85 mat get 5-10% less MPG, but the cost savings per gallon is usually 15-30% less per gallon. Therefore there is a net savings.

    • methylamine
      January 9, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      I’d like to see links for all four propositions, because they’re so far off the numbers I’ve read for years.

      Just as an exercise in common sense, track the path of corn ethanol:

      1) prepare the field–using fuel
      2) plant the seeds–more fuel
      3) water the plants–using (copious) water
      4) fertilize the plants–more fuel (Haber process to fix nitrogen uses mucho energy)
      5) harvest–more fuel
      6) transport to fermentation plants–more fuel
      7) distill–more fuel

      $10-15/gallon real price? Is that derived by attributing the entire military budget as a procurement cost?

      I’m willing to listen but you’ll have to back your assertions.

    • January 9, 2013 at 6:27 pm


      How is the fact that there is less energy in a given quantity of ethanol fuel not relevant?

      If I have to burn 1.2 gallons of ethanol to go the same distance a gallon of gas would take me, how is this not a negative? The only way I can see that it wouldn’t be would be if the ethanol cost less – enough to make up for the decrease in operating efficiency. But it does not.

      Every study of US (note, not Brazilian or other) ethanol production shows it’s a net loser. More “in” than “out.”

      Gasoline is in fact cheaper in real terms today than it was 30 years ago. Its price is higher – but that is almost entirely due to inflation – and taxes.

    • BrentP
      January 10, 2013 at 2:45 am

      “the true cost of gasoline”? These are always out of the ass numbers that people who want to control energy make up as they go along. In a real free market, not one where the US military serves the oil cartel, etc, gasoline would still come out on top. If that $15 is based on anything approaching reality it is based on the costs generated by the cartel. Cartels are costly. Free markets drive prices to zero.

      Corn ethanol is a loser energy wise because it doesn’t power itself. If we had a free market sugar cane ethanol would drive corn ethanol off the market in short order.

  19. Me2
    January 9, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Marc Rauch “1. Energy content in a gallon of gasoline vs. a gallon of ethanol is completely and totally irrelevant.”

    Marc Rauch “2. The comment about ethanol being negative fuel efficient is predicated upon a study conducted by David Pimentel at Cornell with preposterous information.”

    How was it ‘preposterous information’? I am sure it is obvious to you but how about specifics for the rest of us?

    Marc Rauch “3. If there was such a free market, gasoline would never, ever be able to compete with ethanol in price or performance. Every study done to show the true cost of gasoline is somewhere between $10 and $15 per gallon.”

    ‘Every study’? Citations please. BTW just one ‘study’ that shows otherwise would invalidate your claim. Your ‘absolute’ statements betray arrogance of the highest degree.

    Marc Rauch “4. Even with the gasoline-industry affected price of E85, E85 is typically more cost effective. A gasoline-powered car using E85 mat get 5-10% less MPG, but the cost savings per gallon is usually 15-30% less per gallon. Therefore there is a net savings.”

    Hmmm, so now you are agreeing E85 blend gets less MPG? Where are theses stations tat sell E85 at a 15-30% discount compared to pure gas? I have yet to see one.

    • John Kane
      January 10, 2013 at 3:32 am

      I’ve been using a 50/50 mix of E85 and E10 (regular gas) for almost three years now in my mid-80’s Volvo 240s. I get 28+ mpg with my manual transmission, 22+ in the automatic, no detectable difference in mpg or performance, or maintenance costs. This is with no modifications to the engine at all. I pass our California dynomometer smog testing with flying colors.

      My local station, at last fill-up, sold gas at $3.49, E85 at $3.09, a 40 cent or 11% discount. When gas was approaching $5 last year, E85 was under $4.20, a 16% difference.

      David Pimentel’s work on EROEI (energy return on energy invested) is deconstructed by David Blume here http://www.alcoholcanbeagas.com/node/490

      There are certainly criticisms to be leveled at the industrial agribusiness model of ethanol production, but let’s not throw out the baby. Ethanol should be integrated into our transportation fuels mix going into and beyond the 21st century. It’s our financial systems that need deconstruction.

      • January 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

        Hi John,

        Well, you’re brave!

        The automakers all uniformly warn most stridently that using E85 in a car not made to use it will cause damage and will void any warranty coverage.

        As far as mileage: I test drive new cars every week. All makes, all models. Those not optimized to use ethanol (non-“flex fuel”) return, on average, 2-3 MPG less when using E10 than when I fill them with 100 percent regular unleaded (available in my area). A gallon of E10 has less energy content than a gallon of pure gas. For that reason, it takes a greater volume of E10 to drive a given distance. As far as E85: Even EPA has publicly conceded a significant reduction in mileage/range, relative to a car using the same quantity of gasoline. Granted, this would be largely irrelevant if burning a larger volume of ethanol (to make up for it having less energy) could be done at lower cost relative to an energy-equivalent quantity of gasoline. But ethanol is a net-loser, in terms of what it costs to make the stuff vs. what you get out of it.

        I work on old stuff – cars and bikes (plus lots of power equipment) and I can attest, from personal experience, that using ethanol-alcohol fuel in these older vehicles accelerates rusting of metal tanks and fuel lines and also attacks rubber parts (diaphragms, gaskets, floats, etc.) not made to handle the more corrosive (and hygroscopic) ethanol-laced “gas.”

        So, I see no upside – unless you’re an agribusiness cartel receiving government-enforced revenue from the forced “sale” of your product.

        • BrentP
          January 11, 2013 at 4:33 am

          Prolonged use can cause damage. I know this from experience. I pulled a fuel pump and removed E85 from a car many years ago. That car still runs fine today.

          Climate has a big role as well, because the moisture has to come from somewhere.

          Meanwhile big oil is creating plants to make gasoline and diesel from natural gas. Why? Because natural gas has become so cheap by comparison they can make perfect fuels that can then in turn be used to blend with.

  20. Me2
    January 9, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Looks like my ‘facepalm’ at Marc Rauch’s #1 got lost. Really, it should be there as it was quite facepalm worthy.

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